We need a new media this new year: there’s an urgent need to find better ways to communicate together in the year ahead to build a movement for change. Mainstream media is dogged by special interests, plagued by celebrity culture or splintered into a thousand singular voices. The press in Scotland is timid, conservative and trenchantly unionist, making Tom Nairn’s famous remark that ‘Scotland will never be free until the last minister is strangled with a copy of the Sunday Post’ truer than ever.
The problem is also that this media is failing in the face of its inability to respond to the new politics or the opportunity of new digital forms. It’s no surprise that today it’s announced that the Herald newspaper is to move some production from its headquarters in Glasgow to a centre in Yorkshire. The paper has signed a deal with the Press Association (PA) to provide sub-editing of news and features. This is similar to a deal already in place for the Evening Times. News stories will still be selected by Herald staff in Glasgow but page design and headline writing will be carried out by PA staff in Howden.
Whilst our press is failing and flayling about Unionists get themselves all in a lather over a warped sense of injustice. Frothing and foaming over at Our Kingdom Tom Gallagher writes:
“The growing influence of spin-doctors, lobbyists and “reputation-management” companies has enhanced an existing culture of secrecy and restricted the scope for debate about the conduct of politics. An energetic media machine watched over by Alex Salmond has no inhibitions about aggressively intervening to try and shape the content of the op-ed pages and anathematise critical voices” …but Gallagher fails to respond when asked to name a significant media outlet supportive of independence.
But unlike previous generations there is a chance and an opportunity to create and be the media rather than just moan about it. It’s time to move away from the negativity of cyber-nats to the positivity of digi-reps, digital republican voices with a positive agenda for change – rooted in a wider social justice movement. This is what Bella Caledonia stands for. It’s not that blogging is bad but that ‘attack blogging’ becomes isolating and meaningless.
The best of the wired opportunity is for us all to be ‘independently minded’ – to think for ourselves. So as the old media dies the possibilities of a new one are emergent.
Aside from the collapse of faith in the mainstream media there’s a notable shift happening whereby the writers for newspapers are ‘independently minded’ even if their papers and owners can’t be. Iain MacWhirter, while he can’t quite say it, is swithering, if he could shift from his mantra of ‘nobody quite knows what independence actually means these days’.
Responding to the sort of routine anti-Scottish sentiment in even England’s most liberal press he wrote:
“London taxes do not subsidise high Scottish spending and those who make this claim know they are not telling the truth. The hundreds of billions in oil revenues which have flowed south over the last three decades more than outweigh any fiscal advantage enjoyed by Scots.”
Ian Bell knows about class politics and would be supportive of a half-decent left movement when it appears, whilst Lesley Riddoch is full of practical creative thinking. Joan MacAlpine is another case in point. Commentators like Gerry Hassan have come out as pro-independence writers and others, such as Joyce McMillan are becoming clearer and more open in the face of the complete collapse of the Labour Party as a force for social change.
In a recent article for the Scotsman (The SNP In The New Decade: Raise The Game, Or Risk Stagnation) she writes: “it seems to me that if they (SNP) are to retain any momentum, as a project and a party, then there are reasons why they need to raise their game, and demonstrate that they can outperform those tired-looking UK parties far more decisively than they currently do…They need to do this, in the first place, simply because, alone of the parties, they currently look as if they might have the intellectual energy to achieve it.” Read the full article here.
“It’s not, of course, that the First Minister has no reasons to be cheerful, two and a half years on from his bold, and so far fairly successful, decision to run Scotland’s first SNP administration as a minority government. The difficulty, though, lies in the question of where the SNP goes from here; for if all eyes are currently on this year’s Westminster general election, we are also now less than 18 months from the next Scottish Parliament election in May 2011, when Salmond will need to offer a distinctive SNP programme for another four years in government. With the Tory and New Labour parties ethically and intellectually on their knees, in other words, this is a moment of opportunity for Alex Salmond and his party.” Quite so.
Clearly pundits and commentators do not a movement make, but the disjuncture between the view of our best writers and the owners of our media tells it’s own story.
In November Bella Caledonia convened a meeting of like-minded folks (plus a few others) and we’ll be doing so again over the coming year. Because we desperately need a new media that’s active and focused, because blogging on its own is isolating and negative, because live events inspire in a way words on a page never can and because the internet is a mixed blessing promising interaction but often delivering inter-passivity. *
But mostly because we can’t spend the next two years engaging with the same closed groups of people as first a Westminster General Election then a Holyrood Election go by delivering the same tired failed party politics.
The leaders debate debacle has shown the limitations of the present media construct and this is one of the first challenges we must make to change the dynamic of public dialogue. It is ridiculous that we should require a referendum to decide that Scotland should be governed by the people of Scotland. It’s farcical that we should be denied this right, and its imperative that we change the media experience to liberate ourselves from the claustrophobia of the British State.
* © Pat Kane ‘Building a Movement for Yes’